Resources

Law as Liberty

By R. J. Rushdoony
June 01, 2003

We have seen thus far that restitution is basic to God's law, its purpose being the restoration of godly order. This is a step towards the establishment of God's kingdom, begun as men and women are made new creations in Christ, and then furthered as they bring every area of life and thought into captivity to Christ.

The Western world, once known as Christendom, has abandoned its centuries old adherence to God's law for an antinomian and modernist position. (My father, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and New Mound College prior to World War I, in his preaching echoed Edinburgh, but, in his day-by-day living, reflected his rural, old country adherence to the law-word of God.) This antinomianism has been an abandonment of the Faith, because whose law you follow, he is your god.

The Law as Bondage
The horrifying premise of church thinking is that the law is bondage. That is indeed true if you are a law-breaker. The lawless man finds the law a fearful handicap. If priests and churchmen create and impose their own version of law upon us, it is a yoke and a hindrance.

But is this true of God's law, the law of the Holy One? James, the brother of our Lord, in James 1:25 and 2:12 (cf., Gal. 5:1), speaks of "the perfect law of liberty," very obviously seeing the law as a blessing to the righteous.

Now the giver of law is the god of that society, whatever name he may be given. The law-giver defines good and evil, right and wrong, and he thereby ordains the course of that society; law is a key form of determination, and laws are given by rulers and states in order to set the course for a realm or social order. On the human scene, laws, together with social planning, regulations, and controls, are a humanistic form of predestination. We live in a time of fanatic dedication to humanistic, statist predestination, which, naturally, finds talk of predestination by God intolerable.

The choice for men is anarchy or law. But humanistic law is a form of anarchy because it has no relationship to God's fundamental order. Humanistic law thus leads to anarchy. By necessity, humanism has chosen the tempter's program, every man as his own god, knowing or deciding for himself what is good and evil (Gen. 3:5). In humanism, sometimes the individual is his own god; at other times, the state exercises this power for all the people.

Law Is Liberty
Biblical faith means recognizing God's law as the ground of our freedom. Law is liberty, not slavery. If I am a murderer, the law is bondage and a yoke to me. If I am a godly man, it is freedom for me that law restrains the men who would like to see me dead. The law to me then is liberty from murderers, thieves, and others. How much freedom can any of us ever enjoy if we are suddenly in a world ruled by a Marquis de Sade, where all crimes are legal because they are natural (being the acts of fallen man), and only Christianity is illegal, because it is supernatural and hence anti-natural?

Law is liberty, and religious antinomianism is a guarantee of slavery because it exalts the laws of the fallen men over the law of God, and because it makes a holy cause of a contempt for God's law.

The psalmist asks, "Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?" (Ps. 94:20) In James Moffatt's rendering, a paraphrase, this reads, "Can evil rulers have thee for our ally, who work us injury by law?"

Can there be a free society, the professed goal of modern men, when God's perfect law of liberty is despised? How free can any society be when it drops God's Ten Commandments, and the whole body of His law? It is no accident that the Western World, no longer Christendom, is moving into statist tyranny.

The cause of freedom is a futile one on anything other than God's terms, His Son the King, and His law our way of life. For men to seek freedom apart from God is comparable to seeking heaven in hell. The humanistic state constantly expands its power, because its goal and the goal of its citizenry is to be as God, determining their own laws, lives, and morality (Gen. 3:5). Because it is not God, the humanistic state has a problem, never having enough power to play god as it hopes to do. As a result, by an ever expanding body of law, the humanistic state strives for the total power that is its dream.

Humanistic law means tyranny, whereas God's law is liberty. God's law cannot expand: it is a limited body of legislation, and, in much of the law, God reserves the right of judgment to Himself. Thus, little is left to man's discretion, if anything.

Humanistic law is a plan of salvation, a way to the good society as the humanist envisions it. God's law is not a plan of salvation but of sanctification, of holiness. The antinomians think that by denying God's law, they have preserved the integrity of Christian salvation when in fact they have denied it. By embracing humanistic, statist law, they have adopted an anti-Christian plan of salvation.

When Horace Mann promoted humanistic and statist education, together with civil government, as the means to heaven on earth, the Arminian churchmen of his day failed to see that, in adopting Mann's viewpoint, they were abandoning the premise of Christian faith, the sovereignty of God and salvation through Christ's statement and His headship as our priest, prophet, and King. Horace Mann was quite openly a Unitarian, but too few were concerned about that. We are now surrounded by Mann's legacy, and too many treasure it because it is an old one, therefore good Americanism!

The culmination festival in the law is the jubilee which stresses liberty and release:

And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. (Lev. 25:10)
Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God. Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety. And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety. (Lev. 25:17-19)

God's law is full of promises of blessings to His people. Man's law is essentially punitive, not given ever to promising any good thing!

These questions need to be asked of all antinomians: What freedom can exist in a lawless society? And whose laws alone give justice and freedom? How we answer these questions will reveal who our God is.


Topics: Biblical Law, Statism

R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965.  His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.”  He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

More by R. J. Rushdoony